Meet the whimsical robots of #BotJoy, a hand-painted robot army programmed to bring you joy. Gary Hirsch’s unique artistic creations bring bravery, hope, and inspiration to people when they need it most. His “Questions for Humans” interactive street art project invites us to have conversations with ourselves that we need to have, and share our insights with the world.
Gary Hirsch, the creator of Bot Joy, is a Portland, Oregon based artist and consultant. The bots began with the idea of an invisible robot that follows you around, giving you outrageous compliments to boost your self-confidence. Hirsch later began painting tiny cartoon robots on dominoes and gave them as holiday gifts to his clients. They were so popular that he began to offer them to anybody who wants one. In the process, the bots have become something much greater than he ever imagined.
In 2012, Hirsch was commissioned to design a mural with 990 Brave Bots for Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. The mural greets kids in the waiting room, gaining their interest and introducing the concept of the bots. Children can receive their own Brave Bot to help them through scary surgeries or medical procedures. The Bot Joy website is filled with messages from thankful hospital staff and parents whose children have been comforted by their bots. Brave Bots have now spread to children’s hospitals around the world.
Rather than zealously guarding his idea, Gary Hirsch encourages others to “steal” it and design bots for themselves and to share with friends and family. He visits hospitals and school art programs, teaching kids and adults to create their own bots to keep or gift to others in need. Fans post photos of their own bot designs, which he features on his blog. You can support his amazing work by purchasing a bot from him directly via his Etsy shop.
I was fortunate enough to discover Hirsch’s Boulder, Colorado “Questions for Humans” art installation completely by accident while traveling down the Boulder Creek Path. It’s just off the path at 13th and Arapahoe, painted on the sides of a building and easily accessible to everyone. That’s by design. This isn’t art to be observed from behind a velvet rope in a museum; it is art to be experienced. Information next to the bots invites you to take a picture with them and share your answers to their questions on social media with the hashtags #botjoy and #botstories.
I was immediately drawn to pose for a photo by each of the adorable robot “interviewers”. The vivid art is imbued with personality; each robot seems like someone you’d want to hang out with and talk to. Their cuteness is disarming; they naturally create an environment of safety and openness to share feelings. Without hesitation, I started telling the robot, and a friend who was with me, my answers to each of the questions. Now, I’m sharing them here. I hope you will look at the pictures of these robots, and the many others available via his website, and share your own answers.
#Botjoy What are you afraid of?
Honestly, many things. My favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I joke that for me, that’s not hard because almost everything scares me. But that doesn’t stop me from living my life. I do the things that scare me anyway, even if they will forever be frightening, because the alternative is to hide away from life and not enjoy all that it has to offer. Except for getting on airplanes. I still don’t do that. And sometimes, I keep my feelings inside, because I’m afraid I’ll be misunderstood or rejected. There are many people whom I consider good friends and care about very much, but only a few people really, truly know me. It’s scary to be known, flaws and all, but worth it, when you can find the courage. I’m working on it!
#Botjoy Who Inspires You?
My mother is and will always be my greatest inspiration, even though she has been gone for many years. I hope that someday I can be as brave and strong as she was. I hope that she would have been proud of me. I’m also inspired by great musicians and artists, some of whom are famous, many of whom are not. Devoting your life to the pursuit of creativity takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable that I truly admire.
#Botjoy What Brings You Joy?
This one is easy. Travel. The freedom of the open road, and being able to go where I want when I want. The ability to have friendships that aren’t limited by distance, thanks to the Internet and travel. On the flipside, spending time at home with my dogs, watching them play and be joyful. Listening to beautiful music and attending musicals and plays. Experiencing great art of all kinds. Helping musicians with marketing and management, and offering support and advice on their new projects.
#Botjoy What do you need help with?
There’s the obvious, of course. The reality of my life is that I need help just to get out of bed, get dressed, and cook my breakfast. But when I saw this bot, that wasn’t what I thought about. I need help overcoming self-doubt, and feeling like I’m not good enough. I also need help waking up in the morning! I struggle with sleep problems, and lately it’s been terrible. I’m writing this at 4am. No matter how many alarms are set, I sleep through them or shut them off without even remembering. I need a cheerful bot to wake me up with a song and breakfast in bed. And yes, much as I like my current caregivers, I look forward to the day when I can have a robot assistant. Especially if she’s either as cute as these bots, or looks like Angelina Jolie.
#Botjoy Who do you love?
My family. My dogs. My friends who are like family. Anybody who is trying to make the world a better place through their work or creativity. You, for reading this blog!
#Botjoy What is your dream?
My dream is to travel for about half of the year, as part of my work with this blog, promoting musicians, or representing a company whose products or services truly help people. When I’m not traveling, I’d like to have a house on some property about an hour from New York City, with lots of room for my dogs to run. I would go into the city regularly to attend cultural events and work with performers – and be a patron sponsoring new musicals and other artistic projects, if I had the money. A life partner would be nice too – a woman who is intelligent, creative, and compassionate, and preferably works in the arts or the nonprofit field. Someone with whom I could truly be myself. That’s my dream. I hope someday I can make it a reality.
After experiencing the magic of these robots firsthand, I understand why they are so helpful to children and adults who are facing difficult times in life. I feel compelled to spread the word about them, and share the gift of bot encouragement with those who need it. Some of my friends may indeed have special little robotic friends arriving in their mailboxes soon. When a person is struggling with life-threatening illness, the loss of a loved one, or any of the other big challenges life likes to throw in our path, those who care want to help, but it’s hard to know what to do. There is a natural urge to give a gift, but their pain, their sadness can’t be fixed by any amount of money or material items. But the spirit, the love represented by these adorable little pieces of art can heal, and bring hope, courage, and joy when it is needed most. That’s the joy of Bot Joy. Share it with the people you love!
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